Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We the children of India.....

Over the weekend, we attended the third edition of Bangalore Literature Festival held at Crowne Plaza, Electronic city. Unlike the previous   years, we didn't have Abhay accompany us this time as there were no children's events on Day 3, the only day we could find time attend! Though we wished we could take Abhay too, we didn't mind not having to carry home made food for the picky eater or not having to find ways of engaging him amidst a serious discussion/ session with Arun Shourie or not having to run to the restrooms every other hour !:-))) 
However, I still came back with the book to read to Abhay. Though I was aware of this book and had seen it in bookstores and libraries before, I always thought Abhay needs to be a little older to be able  fully comprehend the essence of it. But it was only when Justice Leila Seth mentioned that children as young as seven were able to understand the basic tenets, like equality and freedom enshrined in the Constitution of India, that I picked up for tonight's read. Of course, this is not a book your young reader can finish in one sitting and requires an explanation here and there. 
When I read, "We the children of India" by retired Justice Leila Seth, the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India, whom I had the privilege to meet at the BLF 2014,  I was plain jealous! I wish this book was written when I was in school, considering I had set my heart on law very early! The book starts off with a basic introduction to the National book of India called the Constitution, throwing light on the circumstances under which the Constituent Assembly sought to adopt the same. With the aid of suitable examples and colourful illustrations featuring children, Justice Leila Seth, explains the meaning and effect of each of the principles -Sovereign, socialist, secular, Democratic Republic, and constitutional guarantees like Justice, Liberty, Equality and fraternity, in a succinct and an age appropriate manner! We the children of India also has everything a young reader needs to know about workings of the Indian democratic system and the rights of its people, including our little ones! Characteristically, the former high court judge has saved the best for last - she draws up a preamble for the children of India with a message of love, respect and hope!!! A must read for all the children of India!!! However, don't be surprised if your young reader quotes this book to challenge the constitutionality of your house rules!!!!:-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Petu and gang!!!

Bangalore has been host to a multitude of activities revolving around children’s literature…so much so that parents are left with little time for themselves!:-) Every weekend has some storytelling event, book launch, book-reading sessions for kids, with some of them conducted by friends and picture book enthusiasts like me! For instance, this weekend, the Story-telling event (conducted by friend and fellow blogger Cuddles and Reads) at Atta Galata on the occasion of International literacy day is in competition with children’s events at the Bangalore Literature festival or the event related to Tulika’s “Minu and her hair” at Kutoohala rivals with same in the evening at the Lightroom Bookstore! Added to it…there are many such events at the numerous children’s libraries and learning centers that have sprouted in every corner of Namma Bengaluru! With such a large spread…..who can blame us parents for choosing such inclusive events over “adults only” programs! J

Anyway, a few weeks back, I received an alert from the Bookalore team regarding their next monthly event …..to be held in surprise of surprises…J P nagar!!!! ( I cant believe that I found time to write about it only now …when we are already approaching the October event!) I was particularly keen on attending this time as it featured Arundhati Venkatesh’s early reader series “Petu Pumpkin” as we had missed some of her earlier events. But alas…..mommy proposes and work (in my case the Court) disposes!!! As I was stuck in Court that day, Abhay’s daddy did the needful!:-) Though Abhay seemed a little distracted at the event, given that some of the boys seemed to form their own secret society within the audience , he had insisted on buying both the books “Petu Pumpkin  Tiffin thief” and Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles”. Of course we bought much more than that and also received a special prize from the Funky Rainbow, their travelling bookstore for having bought ten books!!!!

Though I only write about the pictures books on Onestoryaday, the excitement with which Abhay took to Petu’s tales, like no other “Hole books” ….surely deserved a post on Onestoryaday! In fact he devoured both the books within a couple of days and they even kept him from boredom during our annual family pooja!

Petu Pumpkin series is something Abhay could instantly could relate to, considering it revolves around a boy named Pushkin, fondly called Petu pumpkin studying in Class three. However there are times I wonder why as my son is hardly a foodie that Petu is so famous or infamous for! 
The first book "Petu Pumpkin Tiffin thief" starts off with a new academic year in school where Petu pumpkin is found prowling other’s tiffin boxes prompting the others in the class to start a secret society and the second book “Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles” has Petu trying everything from pulling out his tooth to writing to tooth fairy requesting for a football to fit in and be accepted into the “Gap club” while helping them challenge the fourth standard foot ball team! It makes a hilarious read …and not just for kids….believe me I couldn’t put down the book either…! Besides being appropriate for the reading level of children between the age group of 6 to 9 years, the stories are very well written and the  author beautifully captures the mind of the big little boys in transition! Whether it’s the easily relatable characters and class room situations, intra and inter class politics that younger readers can identify with or the funny limericks that run through the narrative  - a must read for all young and emergent readers….. “petu” or not! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to our little Zagazoo!

While kids’ birthdays are occasions to celebrate, they are also a time to reflect on the years that simply flew past ……. a reminder of how fast they grow up…...grow out of and grow into new phases!  Like….I can’t believe that my little one turned eight years old yesterday! Whoa!! Eight signals transition into the big league! Eight year olds are more self-assured (that means don’t look up to you for everything!) …think more critically (which means you cant get away with with vague explanations on sticky issues!) and move into independent reading, given the upper limit for most picture books being eight. Wait a minute…. …does it mean he has grown out of Onestoryaday….?? Err…..I haven’t!!!! J
Abhay’s eight birthday was a rather low-key affair compared to his previous celebrations with the highlight being  a special treasure of hunt for eight clues leading up to nine gifts (as he will be stepping into his ninth year!) followed by cake cutting and a restaurant dinner with close family and cousins!
As we look up the check list for milestones on turning eight and compare how our not-so-little one fairs thereon, we find ourselves wondering whether the present phase is better than the previous one…if not worst! J
So on the occasion of Abhay’s eighth birthday, we read one of our Quentin Blake favourites  Zagazoo”, a book that speaks to parents as well as their little ones! It begins like any love story between two likeminded people, George and Bella who spend time together doing many things, including making model aeroplanes or eating strawberry and vanilla ice creams when all of sudden, they receive a parcel that contains a pretty pink creature resembling a baby with a name tag “Zagazoo”. Needless to say, they were delighted and though Zagazoo wasn’t perfect, he had a happy smile that made up for all the imperfections! Then one day Zagazoo turned into a huge baby vulture with a terrifying screech that was even worse at night! Just when George and Bella were wondering how to cope, they discovered that Zagazoo had turned into a baby elephant that knocked over furniture, pulled the tablecloth off the table and ate anything that could lay his trunk on! Before they knew it, George and Bella were baffled to see that Zagazoo change into various forms  thereafter - a mud loving Warthog, a bad tempered dragon, a bat, and then a hairy creature they couldn’t quite understand and what’s more …..it was getting bigger, hairier and stranger! George and Bella found themselves wishing to turn back time into the “Elephant” or the “Warthog” phase instead! Read on as Bella and George’s hair turns grey with worry as to what will happen to them or how will Zagazoo turn out…as Quentin Blake entertains you with his hilarious yet realistic take on different stages of childhood and growing up! Its only when your Zagazoo turns into a bad tempered dragon when you realize that the warthog was better - a story of all the parents...I guess!  So….bring home  the “Zagazoo” to your little Zagazoo and let him decide whether he’s a warthog or a bad tempered dragon! J For now.....Happy Birthday my little Zagazoo.....!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our Teacher....!

Today, being the birth anniversary of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, India’s former President and a celebrated academician and statesman, which is celebrated as Teacher’s day, it’s time to remember and thank all our teachers who’ve nurtured us through the years. I haven’t read too many books to Abhay on teachers and when I have, I haven’t forgotten to mention my school teacher who made a big difference to my life then and in some ways, even now. I have been a teacher’s daughter myself and I have seen how much admiration, goodwill and respect she enjoys from her students….which is reflected in their interaction with her …even though it’s been more than a year since her retirement. A teacher may be the principal motivation for many students behind attending school or college. Extending the same to others who’ve played the role of teachers and mentored us when we were directionless…. be it our parents, seniors, first boss or current associate….its time acknowledge their contribution too…!! So you may or may not support Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s Teacher’s day address today, or may or may not have been  able to listen in on his address but you cannot but deny the momentous role of a teacher in shaping the future of the individual and society!

On the occasion of Teacher’s day, I picked by “Our Teacher” by Sundara Ramasamy, a well known literary figure in Tamil, known as ‘su.raa” , which is an Ode to his favourite teacher in school, Elizabeth Ma’am….who reminds me of our own Elizabeth Ma’am in College….in fact I think everyone who has studied in a convent would have been taught by a teacher named Elizabeth! J Narrated in first person, the story set in pre-independence era, revolves around a new teacher in school named “Elizabeth Thomas” having been appointed to teach the students of Section A of Class VIII, who were considered not-so-bright students, as opposed to the students of section B of the same class who always win the Annual Sitalakhsmi prize for Excellence every year. But nothing could deter Elizabeth Ma’am from believing in her students’ potential to “march into Class 9 like smart young soldiers". She thus instantly won over her students who were motivated to work hard and realize their true potential. Elizabeth Ma’am’s efforts paid off when her students gradually aced the half yearly assessments, despite reservations expressed by their rival class teacher Ms. Padmavathi Ma’am. Such was their confidence that they even aspired to compete with section B for the Annual Sitalakhsmi prize for Excellence!  However during the run up to year end assessments, Elizabeth Ma’am’s academic integrity is questioned and she does what most shy away from doing – she owns up to her mistake and sets an example for her students that there should not be any compromise on honesty and integrity! A beautiful story that touches upon many aspects of student-teacher life –the excitement and eagerness of a new teacher, student and teacher rivalry, classroom and staff room politics, teacher-student rapport, and the life lessons learned inside and outside classrooms ….. in all make a great read on Teacher’s day!  It would be a travesty not to mention the brilliant pencil sketch illustrations by Neeta Gangopadhyay that provide a perfect setting to that time and age when there was no one like Elizabeth Ma’am! Happy Teachers day to all the teachers!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Before the monsoons are over.....

With the Ganesha festivities over, it's time to enjoy the last of the monsoon magic as it lingers on in the coastal region, before we head back to Bangalore. Though the rains don't seem to let up in some areas, they  are almost on their way out in other parts of the country. Before it's too late.... I thought I should do a monsoon recap on Onestoryaday


When you think of the Indian monsoon, you can't miss Uma Krishnaswami's "Monsoon", illustrated by Jamel Akib which highlights the importance of the yearly rains in a tropical country like India. Another foreign publication that remains close to our heart is Kashmira Seth's "Monsoon Afternoons", as I remember reading  the monsoon escapade of a grandpa-grandson duo to my son in the US when it got me so nostalgic that I almost immediately wanted to return to India! (and we did the same year!)

Pratham publications have a lot to offer ranging from Peacocks and Pakoras by Mala Kumar and Manisha Choudary and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan as a part of the Rituchakra series on seasons and the Level 2 Early Reader  Rain Rain by Sanjay Jaiswal "Sanjay" and Ajith Narain to the recent “Wildlife in a City Pond” a Level four reader by Ashish Kothari and Sangeetha Kadur.  

Going home in rain” by Nancy Strikland and Jigma Lodey,story revolving around three young girls and their attempt to brave heavy rains in a mountainous region in Bhutan.

There's Ruskin Bond's The Angry River, a story of survival and friendship during flash floods in the rainy season, put together in an Amar Chitra Katha format along with another one of his stories titled "The Blue Umbrella". 

Tulika's  Raindrops by Vaishali Shroff presents a vivid picture of monsoon in a city, with its soft water colour illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane enhancing your reading experience! 

Another addition to our rainy-day reads is Tulika's "The Red Umbrella" a bi-lingual by Nandini Nayar and pictures by Sowmya Menon which we received as a part of the picture book exchange hosted by Bubbleink just in time for this year's monsoon!
This story reminiscent of classics like "The Mitten", with a monsoon/ rainy twist also reminds you of Gulzaar's famous song, "Ek akele chhatri mein jab aadhi aadhi bheeg rahe hain"! J The rain goes drip drip drip and all the animals from the mouse to the cow scramble to fit in under the red umbrella…..which in all makes a perfect read-aloud book for younger kids!

Monsoons may come and go, but you always have these monsoon reads to transport you back to the rainy season and let you vicariously enjoy the rains.....!! For now, enjoy the monsoon while it lasts!:-))